Buffalo's Broadway-Fillmore district saw an event so large it took two churches to make it happen. To celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Parish joined with Corpus Christi Parish for a procession from church to church.
Over 100 people, led by Bishop Edward M. Grosz, paraded from Townsend Street, down Paderewski Drive to Clark Street, stopping at four altars on the church properties to pray. Young girls from the parishes scattered flower petals that Bishop Grosz followed. Walking under the traditional canopy that creates a sacred space, the bishop carried the Eucharist in a monstrance that Father Michael Czyzewski, OSPPE, pastor of Corpus Christi, brought back from a trip to Poland in honor of the parish's 120th anniversary. Mary Palmer, organist for Corpus Christi, led the congregation in singing "Eat This Bread," "Praise the Lord, Lift Up Your voice" and "All Who Hunger" as they walked the half-mile path.
Each of the four altars was draped in white and yellow banners and held an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, face of Jesus, Divine Mercy image or the symbol of the Eucharist. The bishop would stop at each point to lead a prayer and bless those gathered. The procession drew the attention of the local residents, some of whom opened their doors to watch.
The tradition of the procession dates back to 1247. The feast of Corpus Christi became a folk holiday in Poland during the 1500s with children, altar servers and choirs, being joined by mayors, fire departments and police officers.
Locally, it has been part of St. Stan's history for at least 75 years.
"When the immigrants came here, they carried on," explained Christine Palczewski, a parishioner from St. Stanislaus. "St. Stan's has always paraded through the streets over here, and Corpus Christi on theirs. A number of years ago, when Bishop Grosz was here, he said, 'Why not join with Corpus Christi and merge the event?' The beauty of it is, because it is Corpus Christi Church, we want to go to that church, but we want to start here at St. Stan's, which is the mother church of Polonia."
St. Stan's started working with Corpus Christi after the Pauline Fathers came to Corpus Christi in 2016. The Pauline order is based in Poland.
"We have the opportunity to manifest our faith," explained Father Czyzewski. "We know some Christians in other parts of the world don't have the opportunity to go outside to follow the Jesus who is in the Eucharist or even sing religious songs or take the cross or take the Bible with them in the street."
Beverly Sikora, parish council president for Corpus Christi Parish, recalled her mother taking part in the procession when she was confirmed.
"This is a way for Polish and Americans to come together to celebrate the body and blood of Christ, and honor all that is," she said. "I think the Poles love seeing the tradition carried on here in Western New York because it is something they remember in Poland. When you see the processions in Poland, they're huge. So this is our little way to bring Poland to Western New York."
In welcoming everyone before Mass at Corpus Christi, Bishop Grosz commented on the threatening rain clouds that only let out a light drizzle at the beginning of the walk. He called it the "Rite of Sprinkling."
"That was a sign from the Lord reminding us of our baptism; our baptism by which we became part of the Church. The Church centered in the Holy Eucharist - the Body and Blood of Christ. Without the Eucharist there is no Church. Without the Eucharist there is no priesthood. Priesthood, Church, Eucharist all together is what we celebrate now as we enter into this act of Divine Worship," Bishop Grosz said.